Members of the House of Representatives, have warned Ministers under the cabinet of President Muhammadu Buhari, and other public officials working with the Executive arm of government, that they are subject to scrutiny at all times, on how budgetary allocations to their Offices are used, and that they will go to jail if they spend money without appropriation.
The Lawmakers also said that it would be an illegality which attracts a certain jail term, should any Minister go ahead to spend money not appropriated by the Legislature.
They therefore decided that henceforth, Executive officials that fail to give a comprehensive account of allocations made to them, would not have their 2019 budgets approved by the House.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Aviation, Hon. Nkiru Onyejiocha, handed down the warning at a Public Hearing meant to scrutinize Chief Executives of 4 Agencies in the sector, on the performances of monies appropriated to them.
The Officials included the Directors-General of the Federal Airport Authority of Nigeria, FAAN; that of Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA; and Accident Investigation Bureau, AIB; as well as the Nigeria Meteorological Agency, NiMet.
Angry that none of the invited Chief Executives honoured the invitation sent to them to appear and defend their budget performances of the last 18 months, the Committee which refused to take presentations from their representatives, ruled that the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, and his Aviation counterpart, Hadi Sirika, must appear before the Lawmakers, on Thursday, this week.
While the FAAN DG was reported to have a scheduled meeting with the Ministry of Transport, his NCAA counterpart was however, said to have travelled outside the country on a medical leave, with his Acting Head said to be in Lagos.
The same reason was also given for the absence of the Commissioner of the AIB.
At this juncture, the Chairman of the Committee, Onyejiocha, retorted.
She said: “The man is in Nigeria and attending to some foreigners in his Office. My brother, I take exceptions to the fact that the AIB Commissioner is in Nigeria and he is attending to foreigners, and has prioritised that meeting over and above a scheduled session with this Committee.
“Now we have this attitude that leads to lack of accountability in budget implementation, because as we speak, we do not know how much has been released to them, how much has been spent, and what it was spent to achieve.
“And in less than two days from now, they will tell us to accept their 2019 budget proposal and approve same; we cannot take that from anybody henceforth.
“If we do not appropriate, you cannot spend, and if you spend without our appropriation, you go to jail. The National Assembly has been slighted to the barest minimum, and the Ministries and Agencies are doing same.
“The Minister’s own is even worse, because he always finds reasons not to honour our invitation, and we are done condoning that.
“Whoever failed to defend their 2018 budget performance, will not get a budget in 2019, and we will make sure that those who deliberately avoid our oversight, will have no appropriation for next year.
“You cannot keep spending public funds as you want, without accountability to the people whose money you are spending, and as representatives of the people, we are here to tell you that is completely unacceptable.”